Beddington 4th XI vs Sutton, 2020-08-01

40/40 game. Beddington won the toss and fielded first. Sutton 150/8. Beddington 129 from 33 overs – scorecard

My third game of the season, and the first to be completed, was played under changing, hot conditions. I was the only umpire, being accompanied by glamourous assistants who took square leg duties while I was at the bowler’s end throughout. It started with bright sunshine getting cloudier throughout, but the rain, such as it was, just a few light drops, held off until the Lager Innings. The outfield was scorched dry, with the ball running away fast, but the square had been watered. The strip we were using had a tinge of green to it, but was baked hard.

Early on in their innings Sutton were scoring fast, at one point looking like they might make 200, but after a high-scoring opening, Beddington’s bowlers pegged them back. It turns out that the young lad who I erroneously gave out last week can also bowl, getting 3 wickets for 10 runs conceded from his 4 overs.

Beddington’s innings started a bit wobbly, with the first two wickets falling with just 11 runs scored, but a 71 run partnership for the third wicket seemed to get things back on track with some fine batting that I was very much enjoying watching (being the umpire really does give you the best seat in the house) and I was rather annoyed when they both got out in quick succession, and the rest of the wickets fell for little profit. Aside from that one good partnership the highest score was eight. Sutton had a boy from their under-13s side who finished off most of the tail. His bowling was wild, but in his 4 overs bowled he got 4 wickets for 13 runs conceded. His feet were all over the place, often landing a long way back from the crease, and he gave away a lot of extras, but when he landed right he got wickets – results count for more than style.

After last week I had decided I was too lenient regarding wides, so was quite a bit stricter today. There were still some grumbles from batsmen for me not giving them, but that was their fault for moving towards what would have been a wide ball as I noted last week.

After my LBW mistake of last week I wonder if I perhaps veered too far in the opposite direction. I only gave two (one per team) despite many appeals. A few of those appeals were of course the usual ridiculousness were a fielder at point screams for a wicket, and a couple had the whole team go up including those who had a good view of what happened. There were a couple I only turned down because I couldn’t be sure that the ball hadn’t hit the bat – they were otherwise dead straight deliveries, but most I turned down either because I thought they were missing the stumps or had not hit the batsman in line with the stumps. Without the benefit of a suite of cameras, microphones and computers I just can’t tell if I’m getting it right or not, the best I can do is aim to be consistent, and I think I was. At some point I may sign up for a couple of hours with the techno-wizardry at the MCC indoor academy. When I do I am prepared to be terribly embarrassed!

Spencer CC vs Beddington 4th XI, 2020-07-25

40/40 game. Spencer won the toss and fielded first. Beddington 128/9 from 38.3 overs when the match was abandoned due to rain – scorecard

My previous match at this ground was almost exactly a year ago. That was rainy too, with the match starting late and being reduced to 30 overs a side. This time we started on time but the forecast was never good. The last several overs of the first innings were played in persistent drizzle, we eventually came off when it turned heavier, and reached the shelter of the pavilion as the heavens opened. The rain didn’t take long to return to drizzle but by that point the outfield was drenched, and I was concerned about the new ball in those conditions if we’d started the second innings. As it was, the captains agreed between them to abandon the match as it looked highly unlikely that we’d be able to restart in time for Spencer to get the required minimum 20 overs to bat.

I think I made one big mistake, giving one of Beddington’s openers (a young lad who is a very good batsman) out LBW. The ball was certainly going on to hit the stumps, but he was adamant that he had got an edge with the bat, as was his fellow opener at the non-striker’s end. But I didn’t hear it, so I gave him out. He objected strongly but his colleague told him to clear off and respect the umpire. From what I overheard from some fielders later, I shouldn’t have given him out as he did get an edge on it. I apologised to him later when we left the field.

The batsmen were also, during one particular bowler’s spell, surprised that I wasn’t giving wides. Several of his balls were marginal calls and if they’d been any wider I would have given them. The one that he did get wide enough to call, I didn’t because the batsman had moved towards it (law 22.4.1).

And I made one small mistake – I forgot about the new regulation for this season that the ball must be cleaned every six overs. I was reminded of this just before the drinks break at 20 overs, so for the second half of the innings I took some wipes out with me and did that.

I am cursed, 2020-07-19

My first match of the season was supposed to be today, at Ashburnham, who were playing Catsfield. There was a bit of rain around in the morning when I left London, heading to my parents place for a pre-match lunch, but that cleared up. After lunch I headed off to the ground … and the heavens opened. It absolutely bucketed down. But not for long, and so we got started only a little bit late, with me doing bowler’s-end duty throughout. After a grand total of 4.2 overs I took the players off as it had started raining again, and the bowlers’ landing points were already turning muddy and slippery. After a further 20-odd minutes of hanging around everyone agreed that even if the rain did stop the ground wasn’t going to dry out enough so the match was abandoned.

Then on my way home a couple of hours later I saw there was a game on at Blindley Heath so I stopped to watch. When I arrived the batting team were on 117 for 5, although chasing a target of over 200. Twelve minutes later they were all out.

Clearly I have offended the gods and am cursed to only see a few minutes of cricket this season.

On a better note, however, I don’t appear to be terribly rusty. I remembered to give all the right signals, even for byes which I forgot an awful lot of the time last year.

Return to play!

The government and their medical maestros have given the go-ahead for recreational cricket to restart this weekend. I know from Umpire Twitter that some leagues are starting straight away. The Surrey Championship, the lower reaches of which are my cricketing home, is I think being a bit more sensible. They’re restarting in two weeks time. The ECB have promised to publish guidelines for clubs, and (I assume) updated playing regulations tomorrow, which is really pushing it for clubs to get ready in time for this weekend.

So, I’ve got until the 25th to make sure that my kit still fits, that I haven’t lost my ball counter, and so on. I ought to check that tonight actually, so I’ve got time to order replacements, and I should also look for a friendly match between now and then so I can get my eye back in.

Return to play?

The latest from the ECB is that they plan to start the professional season on the 1st of August, although the exact details of how the various competitions will be structured remains to be decided. I would expect that red-ball professional domestic cricket will have spectators allowed into the ground, but limited overs cricket might not, especially T20 as that attracts large enough crowds that making people keep their distance would be Challenging. Counties may, I suppose, limit attendance to members only.

No word from the ECB on the community game, but the Surrey Championship in which I normally umpire (as a club umpire, not on the league panel) is planning for a week earlier, on the 25th of July. It will not be a full league season, with no promotion and relegation, and they will only organise games for the 1st and 2nd XIs. My own club, Beddington, runs five league sides, so the 3rds, 4ths and 5ths’ fixtures look like they’ll be left to clubs to organise friendlies against near-neighbours. I normally umpire for the 4th XI (the 1st XI generally has umpires appointed by the league, and the club already has two other umpires who do the 2nd and 3rd XIs) so I should at least have some friendlies this season – and given the age of many umpires, who as a result may be anxious about exposing themselves to filthy disease-ridden players, I may be umpiring up a division or so sometimes.

Continuous Professional Development, pt 3: conflict management

The most recent CPD video from the ACO was on conflict management, something that has only really come up a couple of times in my games, one of which came about because of an error on my part, not dealing with poor behaviour before it got too much. This area of umpiring would have, I think, been covered in the training course that I was due to go on at the end of March which was cancelled.

My approach to the whole game is that most of the time I am a spectator, and as much as possible should be left up to the players. That includes dismissals – if someone is out then I will only signal and give them out if the batsman doesn’t walk. That is, my default style is in the terminology of that video “avoiding”. In the error above, I avoided for too long. However, on the one second occasion for conflict in one of my games (I gave someone out caught when he was adamant that he wasn’t, and he argued) I went to “collaborating” by asking my colleague at square leg for his opinion. In the end my colleague (and it should be noted that he was a batsman temporarily standing at square leg) hadn’t had a clear enough view to say either way. If he had been sure I was wrong I would have changed the decision, but the dispute was settled with everyone being reasonably content by me telling the players to hold on while I consulted him, and then confirming my decision.

As a cricket umpire as opposed to an official in a more fast-moving sport I’m lucky that I will almost always have the time for collaboration with my umpiring colleague, but also I have the time to explain decisions to players. This means that I can be both assertive and co-operative, which I think is the ideal.

Continuous Professional Development, pt 2: run-outs

The practical exercise in the most recent CPD video from the ACO on run-outs was a very good one. I didn’t know about the flash-lag effect, but I got 16 out of 18 correct anyway, with one wrong in either direction. There was one more where I thought the batsman was probably out but I wasn’t certain, so gave not out – correctly. My positional judgement varied around the actual frame the batsman was in by a frame or two either way, with about a third of my correct decisions being spot on.

I think that’s a pretty good result, but I shall revisit the exercise in a couple of weeks to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.

I hope they do one on LBWs soon, that’s the area of umpiring that I struggle the most with.

Continuous Professional Development: communication

In the absence of cricket and hence no opportunity for my usual post-match Maoist self-criticism on this blog, I’m looking forward to improving my umpiring through the training materials that the ECB ACO are beginning to put out. The first one on umpire communication was a good start, although I was amused at their picking Nigel Owens out as a bad example of match official to player communication. The point being made was that lecturing like a school master – which Nigel does – is generally a bad thing. But it works well for Nigel, for reasons that are also pointed out in the video. Different example needed I think!

When I was reviewing my overall performance at the end of last season communications was one of the things I picked out as needing work. I was thinking mostly of my pre-match communication with team captains and club officials, but there were also a couple of things in that that I need to improve a bit in my on-field communication.

Pre-season warmup

Pre-season warmup friendlies are supposed to start about now. Obviously that’s not happening, but I can at least have a warm-up for the social side of the season by cracking open this bottle that I was kindly given by the Plastics XI as a thank-you for umpiring some of their matches last season. It’s bloody delicious, and will also help prevent scurvy in my Plague Bunker.

Yes obviously I should have used a slice of orange instead of lime, but I’ve run out.

Cricket season postponed

In the light of the serious pandemic currently underway the ECB has indefinitely postponed the cricket season. I was kinda expecting that, after all the other major sports announced similar postponements. The level 2 umpire training that I was scheduled to have at the end of this month has also been cancelled.

I’m keeping another journal about current events, but will still update here with occasional crickety content if anything noteworthy happens.